Unit 3   Australia


Australia was discovered about 53,000 years ago. It is possible that the first people crossed into Australia from Asia on a great land bridge when the water level of the oceans was lower. Once they were known as "aborigines" which means "the first people of a country", but today they are more usually known as Kooris. Kooris must be one of the oldest races on the earth. They developed a strong system of society. Their spiritual faith and their gods were very important to them, and knowledge, customs and memories were handed down by the elders of the race. Cave paintings have been found which are at least 20,000 years old and are perhaps the oldest form of art yet discovered on the earth.

Kooris developed a way of life that was suitable for this hot and in many places dry country. They invented different kinds of fishing nets, also a curiously shaped piece of wood for hunting which could be thrown and which would return to the thrower if it did not strike anything. They lived by hunting animals, birds and fish, and by gathering roots, nuts and wild fruits. They became experienced at finding underground springs. As a result, the Kooris have been able to live for thousands of years in a desert land in which a foreigner would quickly starve or die from lack of water.

No one knows how many Kooris lived in Australia, maybe between 300,000 and 3 million. Just over 200 years ago Kooris made up 100% of the population, but today they only make up a little over 1% of the popu-lation. Then foreign settlers started to arrive, bringing with them new diseases which killed many Kooris and seizing the land on which the Kooris had lived for thousands of years. Kooris do not believe in owning possessions or land and they could not understand how settlers took land as their own. Whenever the Kooris defended their rights, they were killed.

Education was intended for white settlers only, and until very recently no school lessons were held in languages rather than English. Thus Koori children who went to school could not understand the lessons. Although the settlers generally treated each other well, they, particularly the police, treated the Kooris badly. A quarter of the people who have died in police stations and prisons have been Koori.

Two hundred years ago there were more than 250 Koori languages. Half of these languages have completely disappeared, and many of the remaining languages have been lost.

In 1960 Kooris were made citizens of Australia, 53,000 years after arriving in the country.


Lesson 11   AUSTRALIA

Australia is as old as time.  Probably it was once connected to South America, but the continents separated as the earth's plates moved. Having been separated from other continents for millions of years, Australia has many plants and animals not found anywhere else in the world. One strange animal lays eggs, yet feeds its young on its milk. Kangaroos and koala bears give birth to very small and weak young. They are then earned in a pocket of folded skin on the mother's stomach for several months while they feed on the mother's milk and grow stronger. Also in Australia there are many varieties of parrots, and over 140 different types of snakes, many of which are extremely dangerous.

Australia is the only country in the world which covers an entire continent. From north to south the distance is 3,220 km and from east to west 3,860 km. In area it is about the same size as the USA (without Alaska), which has more than thirteen times as many people. Today about 85% of the population of 18 million live in the six major cities around the coast. Two thirds of the country is dry or desert.

It is an extremely rich country. It produces metals, precious stones, coal, grain, meat and wines, and has the biggest iron mines in the world. Australia has about one sixth of the world's sheep and produces almost one third of its wool. Cattle are also kept, and about 15 million tons of wheat are grown every year. Fruit and vegetables are grown in areas where there is enough water.

A long fence runs for hundreds of kilometres across Australia. The purpose of the fence is to keep out a type of wild dog called a "dingo" Dingoes hunt at night and like to attack sheep. Farms in the middle of Australia are so large that farmers use motor bikes or helicopters for the task of rounding up the sheep or cattle.

The climate is different depending on the area. The south has cool,

wet winters and warm, dry summers. The north has warm, dry winters and hot, wet summers. The centre of Australia is hot and dry all the year round. Because of such a climate, much of daily life happens outdoors. Australians love sports and win world competitions in tennis, sailing and swimming. If you are asked to an Australian home, you will probably eat outside and cook meat or fish on an open fire. At weekends many Australians go walking and camping in the countryside, called the "bush." For holidays, many people visit the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia, which has 700 islands.